That’s the thing about this city, it just isn’t the same since you’ve left. I came back after an extended time, the longing to return growing inside me as a monster locked in a cage. However, when I came back, it wasn’t home anymore.
I remember that last night. The one you left.
“I know it’s sudden notice,” you told me, looking at your shoes rather than my eyes, “I’m sorry to be leaving so soon after you arrived, but I can’t do it anymore.”
There was nothing I could say or do to make you stay, it was set in your mind. I don’t blame you or hold you for spite for going, the same feeling has come over me. It festers now as if I’m constantly lying on the ground with an uncomfortable rock jutting into the small of my back. I am a fish out of water despite living in the pond I grew up in.
“You have to do what you feel is best for you,” I told you. I did mean it- still do. I would never want to hinder your happiness and comfort, how could I call myself a friend if I didn’t? It just hurts, I suppose, to not have the comforting feeling of you being just down the road.
I took a step outside my new apartment. I’ve gotten into walking lately. It’s good for clearing the mind to make decisions and be introspective on things.
What was once a charming sidewalk of shops, vendors, and the occasional musician playing for tips now looks like a crowded slum piled with litter, exhaust pollution from cars, and unkind people screaming at each other across roads or from windows high up. The veil has been lifted from my eyes to see the wretchedness of this city- maybe it’s just that a new one has been put over my eyes to corrupt the beauty of what I once saw. Regardless, I hate it here now.
It’s too expensive. Anything fun costs a small fortune to enjoy for five short minutes. Small plots of land or storage-shelf apartments will run you into the ground before you have enough money to even buy food. I used to think that it was just paying for luxury, but I now see that it’s just overpriced squalor. Nothing works when you’re not here.
Stopping in the local coffee shop I went to, I decided on something enjoyable to sip on. Maybe this will improve my day a bit, I thought. That hope only lasted for about five seconds until the young cashier, wearing hipster glasses and a recreated tour t-shirt of a band who’d been dead for years rang me up.
“That will be six dollars please,” the girl spoke this in a cheery voice, as if trying to tell me, we’ll suck you dry too, you asshole.
I paid reluctantly and stood waiting for my name and order to be called at the table.
“Charlie, small cold brew!” called another girl wearing a faded beanie and out-of-fashion clothes to look fashionable called. She slapped the beverage onto the stained counter with the ferocity of a frat bro trying to crush a beer can after chugging it. The lid flipped off and danced along the rim of the plastic cup before setting back down unevenly. I took it and walked to the seating area outside, coffee spilling down my hand with each step.
The sun blinded me for a moment as I walked through the door, it was like having someone turn on a flashlight directly in front of your eyes at nighttime. I took a table at a lonely table in a sliver of shade. Immediately, the heat got to me.
Engulfing my body as a sticky blanket, the humidity crowded me, making my sweat drip out my pores with ferocity. You told me that the weather was cloudy and cold earlier today- our favorite type of weather. I took a sip of coffee. It was burnt and stale.
Someone must have left the pot on the burner for the last week and figured that milk and sugar would hide the atrocious taste. That didn’t work. Six dollars for one of the worst cups of coffee I had ever had in my life. If we were still in high school, running around town looking for something to do, it would have tasted like the elixir of life- everything is better with you. Whatever.
After finishing the disappointing coffee, I decided to go to our old favorite book shop. That may cheer me up. Wrong again.
The shelves, once overpacked and stuffed with all kinds of novels were next to bare now. What was at one point a pleasant and inviting aroma of coffee and paper was now just a stench of mothballs and piss from the homeless people using the building as a shelter. I still stalked the aisles, looking for something rare and exciting, all I got were memories of better times.
Friday afternoons after school, we would come in here, making out in hidden corners hardly ever explored by workers or customers. We would find the most off-the-wall titles with creative covers and leave with our arms weighed down with things to read over the next few months. The prices here were good back then, currently- like everything else here- it had just turned to overpriced squalor.
I picked up one paperback that looked interesting enough, someone had spit their gum in the middle of it then placed it back on the shelf. The next one I looked at was torn and colored over- some kid must have thought the book to be his personal canvas.
Spirits thoroughly down and heart sitting like a rock in my chest, I ambled home like a dog with his tail between his legs. My apartment was humid when I walked inside, matching the outside. Even with a fan on and the AC running, I was sweating ferociously. A cockroach crawled along the wall, making me great angry and throw more than I needed to at it. No matter how well you cleaned your place and how often you sprayed the corners and below everything, a few still managed to survive in this detestable heat that lasted nine months out of the year- if you were lucky, that is.
I threw myself onto the bed with a shattered heart and reread the letters you had sent since leaving. I miss you dearly, maybe you’ll be able to talk on the phone later before I restart the process of hating this city more and more with you gone.
No, the thing about this city is that it is unbearable without you. I wish I could have gone with you, but such is life, I guess.